Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Senate Ends Budget Stalemate, Passes Measure

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Senate Ends Budget Stalemate, Passes Measure

Article excerpt

Following a flurry of negotiations and a great deal of political theater, state legislative leaders resolved a two-day budget stalemate Wednesday.

With the Senate standing in recess, Democrats and Republican leaders negotiated an end to the stalemate that delayed a $669 million budget fix since Monday. Then, after more than an hour, the Senate passed the bill's emergency clause by a vote of 43-1 - with state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa, casting the lone no vote.

Yet while Democrats delayed the vote on the emergency clause in an attempt to push Grand Old Party leaders into funding a $2.5 million gap in elderly nutrition programs for FY 2010, that gap remains unfunded.

"We got two of the three things we wanted," Senate Democratic leader Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, said at a press conference to announce the agreement.

Laster said the compromise would move the state's senior nutrition programs away from the Department of Human Services to a different state agency and would require the nutrition programs receive "fair funding" for fiscal year 2011, which starts July 1.

Laster could not define what "fair funding" is, nor did he specify which state agency would serve as the new home for the programs.

For months now, Senate Democrats, in a flurry of media releases, chastised Republican leaders for cuts to the nutrition programs. This week, the issue came to a head while lawmakers were voting on the budget deal to fix the hole in the state's FY 2010 budget.

Senate Democrats complained that $2.5 million wasn't included in the deal worked out by Gov. Brad Henry and legislative leaders. On Monday, they refused to vote for the budget fix's emergency clause, a component of the bill that allows it to go into effect immediately.

In a media release issued Wednesday morning, Senate and House Republicans accused the Democrats of holding the state's public safety system hostage. By delaying the emergency, they said, state agencies, including the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, wouldn't receive their funds until this fall. …

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